Scripture: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast,” Ephesians 2:8-9
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As we come to our last study of what is stated in Ephesians chapter 2, I want us to note the emphasis that Paul places upon grace and faith and on the positive and negative aspects of how a sinner is saved and to underscore the importance of these doctrines.
These verses serve as a summary of what has been set down in the previous seven verses.
They tell us again how we are saved and why we were saved.
The word “for” links what is about to be said to what has been said already.
HOW IMPORTANT IT IS THAT WE UNDERSTAND HOW WE BECAME CHRISTIANS
A preacher once said that many mistakes flowed from a misunderstanding of this vital matter. If we get the foundations wrong, then we will get the whole structure wrong.
Salvation is all of grace. It is entirely of God. This is the sixth reference to grace in this epistle son far. All told there are twelve mentions of grace in the epistle. This is the middle reference. It is one thing to know the meaning of these words with your head. It is another thing to know the meaning with your heart.
Salvation came to the most undeserving and worthless of beings. Twice in this chapter our deadness is mentioned, verses 1, 5. There is a world of difference between carrying a conscious person and an unconscious person. One can assist you the other cannot!
Dead sinners can render no assistance in their own salvation.
IT IS IMPORTANT FOR US TO LEARN THAT WE HAD NO PART IN OUR SALVATION
That is underscored for us. “ . . . that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast,” verses 8-9. Even the faith we exercised in order to cling to Christ was not of ourselves. It was a gift from God.
It is given. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” Romans 10:17.
It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,” Galatians 5:22.
It is as we hear the Word of God that the Spirit of the Lord grants grace to the sinner to believe what he hears!
Our redemption is spoken of as a work of creation. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them,” verse 10. If salvation is a work of ‘Creation’ then it is a work of God alone. A new work had to be wrought in order that we might be delivered from sin. It was not a case of renovation but of creation.
The Christian is one in whom God is working! “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ, . . . . For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure,” Philippians 1:6 & 2:13.
The Christian has no grounds for boasting. Man tends to boast of his works and become proud whenever he thinks he has had a part in his own salvation. It was something the Saviour tackled head-on! “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others,” Luke 18:9. He goes on to tell the parable of the publican or tax-collector and a Pharisee. One was filled with self-praise while the other was filled with a sense of his unworthiness. Christ berates the proud Pharisee and commends the humble publican. “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted,” Luke 18:10-14.
WHILE WORKS HAVE NO PART IN OUR SALVATION THEY DO HAVE A PART IN OUR RELIGION
We are created unto good works. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them,” verse 10.
Just what good works? That is determined by God. The path of holiness is mapped out by Him. Put simply, it is a doing of His will, it is a being like Him. “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy,” 1 Peter 1:15-16.
Back in the days of Jeremiah, the Lord indicated just what was the holiness He expected of His people. “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; after those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people,” Jeremiah 31:33.
We are told that when a person becomes a Christians there is a very great change. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new,” 2 Corinthians 5:17. For such a change to take place there has to be a complete renewal of the whole moral being of a man. He must be born again.
The Shorter catechism explains what holiness or sanctification is.
‘What is sanctification?’
‘Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.’
It is said of the Christian: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” Romans 8:1.
The good works the Christian engages in is not just for a day or two but they are persisted in. Walk. We must progress in good works. Christianity is a progressive walk, an advancing in holiness. 2 Peter 1:3-11. Here again we have God’s description of the work He does in the sinner at conversion. “And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them,” Ezekiel 36:27. We are called upon by Peter to “ . . grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” 2 Peter 3:18.
Power to perform good works must be supplied by the Lord. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me,” Galatians 2:20.
“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure,” Philippians 2:13.
Hear these words of Christ. “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified,)” John 7:37-39.
The working of God’s grace and power in the believer makes him or her a source of good and grace and holiness which, as a river, refreshes and benefits the community in which they live. Overflowing power is to be found in Christ whereby we live for Christ and become a source of blessing and life to others.
Thus I have sought to show you from Ephesians chapter 2 just what we are by nature, the wonderful change that God, through the gospel makes in those who receive and believe in Christ and that the whole process is of God and not of us.
To Him alone be all the glory.
Next week and the week after, given the date, I wish to turn our attention to what the Bible says about the birth of our Saviour.
The Lord bless you.